Antonio Ghislanzoni, the librettist for Giuseppe Verdi‘s AIDA set his love story in a time of war in ancient Egypt. Supposedly based on a true account unearthed by the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette in one of his excavations, the tale of the secret love between Aida, an Ethiopian princess held in captivity in Egypt, and Radamès, an Egyptian general never fails to excite opera fans. When Radamès returns triumphant after leading the Egyptian Army against the invading Ethiopians, Verdi provides one of the most rousing finales in all of opera. But when the King of Egypt rewards him by granting him the hand of Princess Amneris in marriage, tragedy ensues.
The Cincinnati Opera has assembled a very fine cast of Verdi voices that features soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams as Aida, mezzo-soprano Tichina Vaughn as Amneris, tenor Gregory Kunde as Radames, baritone Gordon Hawkins as Ethiopian King Amonasro, bass Morris Robinson as Ramfis, and bass Peixin Chen as the King of Egypt.
Each of the principals has an important scene in which to shine. Mary Elizabeth Williams beautifully sings her Act One aria Ritorna vincitor and Gregory Kunde matches her with his heartfelt singing in the closing scene. Tichina Vaughn‘s hair-raising confrontation with the priests becomes one of the evening’s most compelling moments, as she begs Ramfis -the always sonorous Morris Robinson – to spare the life of Radamès, while Gordon Hawkins‘ vocal and dramatic skills serve him to perfection in the Nile Scene.
Kudos to the Cincinnati Opera Chorus, which impresses throughout, and never more than in the triumphal scene. With conductor Christopher Allen firmly in charge of the Verdi style in both pit and stage, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra once again demonstrates that it is equally superb in both symphonic and opera repertoire.
Stage director Crystal Manich authoritatively helms the massive production designed by Claude Girard and Bernard Uzan, and lit by Thomas C. Hase. Yet again The Cincinnati Opera does itself proud.
Rafael de Acha © 2022
After the July 22 opening and the July 26 performance, additional ones on July 29 at 7:30 pm and July 31 at 3:00 pm. Tickets: 513-241-27422